Waiting for Your Day in Court
The typical scenario in Colorado for a motorist suspected of driving while high is as follows: An officer will pull the driver over for a routine traffic stop, such as an equipment violation or traffic infraction. When the officer approaches the driver, he or she smells marijuana and further questions the driver whether marijuana is present. Often a driver will not remain silent, but instead make an admission to smoking “few hours ago.”
At this point, the officer will request that a person perform roadside maneuvers to prove they are sober. Pursuant to Colorado law, the driver must be informed that these tests are voluntary and they have the right to refuse, but often drivers will do them. Drivers who refuse are arrested for DUI, and drivers who perform the test usually fail according to the officer, so an arrest is usually imminent.
Once handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car, the person’s vehicle is searched incident to arrest and the person is given the option of taking a blood test or refusing. They are also told that refusing the blood test will cause an automatic one-year driver’s license revocation (which isn’t completely true), and then are driven to a hospital on the way to the jail to have their blood drawn. Once at the jail, the accused is locked up in the general population until someone comes and posts a bond, usually around $1500. Once this bond has been posted, and about another four hours to get processed out, the person is released and told to return to court in a few days. In the meantime, the accused must pay a few hundred dollars to get their vehicle out of impound.
When returning to court in a few days, with the title of “defendant,” the person is told that their case will be rescheduled for 30-45 days to wait for the results of the blood test. The defendant is ordered to immediately report to the court’s pre-trial supervision office, where they will be scheduled for an intake with a pretrial supervision officer to supervise them and their sobriety while the case is pending. They will be ordered to appear call a “color-line” every morning to see if they have to leave work and appear to take a urine test to prove sobriety, and each test costs approximately $15. They are also told that they are not allowed to leave the state, and a protection order (commonly referred to as a “no-contact order”) is placed on them by the judge refraining them from possessing or consuming any alcohol or non-prescribed drug, including marijuana. Violate this order and face a new criminal charge-Violation of a Protection Order. Essentially, the person is placed on the equivalent of probation while waiting for their day in court.
After a month or so, if the blood test comes back completely negative, the prosecution may dismiss the DUI case, but there is no remedy for the thousands of dollars spent on court-ordered pre-trial drug testing, missed work, a DUI defense attorney, the impound and bonding fees, and all of the other expenses that come with being charged with a DUI. In addition, Colorado law prohibits criminal justice records from a case involving a traffic infraction from being sealed, so everyone will always know that you were charged with driving under the influence of drugs, even though you were innocent.
After a month or so, if the blood test comes back positive for THC, be prepared for a long and expensive battle trying to prove a negative to a jury—that there is no basis for the 5ng inference that the judge reads to them.